Scotch whisky producers will be required to sign up to a new verification scheme if they want to sell their products within the European Union (EU).
The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme, set up by the UK Government, will help consumers in the UK and abroad to differentiate from genuine UK-produced spirits and fake or sub-standard competitors.
Scotch Whisky will be the first major spirit to be protected, with other UK drinks with a geographical origin, such as Somerset Cider Brandy and Irish Whiskey produced in Northern Ireland, to follow later.
Producers, blenders, bottlers, labellers and bulk importers will need to apply online to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if they want to be verified.
Under the scheme, HMRC will undertake checks on all businesses involved in the production of these spirits - everything from fermenting and distilling to bottling and labelling - and make sure that they meet strict EU requirements.
It will then publish a list of verified brands, production facilities and bulk importers.
Businesses that do not have their processes verified will be unable to market their products within the EU.
Launching the scheme at a visit to the Benromach Distillery in Forres, Morayshire, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “I’m delighted that this scheme is now up and running, helping protect one of the UK’s most important and successful export industries.
“The verification scheme will make sure people who buy Scotch get what they pay for - the finest spirit in the world.
“The Scotch whisky industry is now worth around £4 billion to the Scottish economy and employs more than 10,000 people in Scotland.
“The booming Scotch whisky industry is a huge asset to Scotland and the UK which benefits from being part of the UK and European market.
“The UK Government is doing its bit today to step in and make sure that cheap fakes don’t undermine this unique global export.”
Scotch Whisky Association chief executive David Frost said: “Geographical indication status is of great commercial value to the Scotch whisky industry.
“This is a step change in the protection of Scotch whisky and should be warmly welcomed.
“We fully support the introduction of the verification scheme by the UK Government.
“It will give even more protection to consumers of Scotch Whisky. It will greatly improve the industry’s ability to stop the sale of adulterated Scotch whiskies bottles abroad.”